The Creative Cloud Chronicles: Are You Special?
By Chris Dickman, Founding Editor, Graphics.com
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When Creative Cloud launched in May of this year, Adobe pitched its primary value as providing access to a comprehensive and growing collection of related products and services for professionals involved in graphics, publishing, web and mobile development, as well as motion graphics. Since membership included everything in the Creative Suite 6 Master Collection, which goes for $2,599, having immediate access to that for $49.99 was most attractive to those who didn't have the option of upgrading a desktop version. But since most of us aren't lucky enough to own the Master Collection, Creative Cloud made it possible to jump into the big leagues for a relatively small amount of money each month.
Creative Cloud also launched with Edge, Muse, Business Catalyst hosting, TypeKit web fonts, a modest amount of cloud storage and the ability to sync and share files. What didn't make the cut were the tablet-based Touch Apps, which it seemed were going to originally be included. This has now devolved to members receiving just a free month of usage of three of the apps. When I spoke earlier this week to Scott Morris, Adobe Senior Marketing Director, Creative Pros, he indicated that this change was due to the business models of Apple and Google. If so, it's curious that Adobe would allow itself to wind up in a situation where other, potentially competing, companies control its business practices.
In June, Adobe added the worthy Lightroom to the membership mix. And this week Edge (now Edge Animate) and Muse were updated. But what really caused a stir was the rollout of the first feature enhancements for a CS6 application for CC members. Illustrator was the happy recipient of a number of enhancements, notably the long-overdue ability to package all the files and fonts used in a document into a single folder. As Jeff Veen, vice president of product management for Adobe Creative Cloud, put it, “As soon as our engineering teams can finalize new features, like the ones we’re seeing for Illustrator today, we will release special Creative Cloud editions of our desktop software, only available to Adobe Creative Cloud members.” The illustration below shows the current CC offering, followed by a product release timeline.
So there you have it: "special Creative Cloud editions." Reaction was swift as the implications of what that meant for those with desktop licenses for CS6 applications (hands up) began to sink in. In a nutshell, reaction was negative, as you can see from the many comments on John Nack's post announcing the update. After all, after purchasing or upgrading to CS6 just a few months ago, it's easy to feel like a second-class citizen (not "special" enough) when seeing Adobe roll out the first of what looks to be a steady stream of new features for CC members. And things get more complicated when you start contemplating the different versions of Creative Suite applications that will now be out there. Adobe was quick to assure that there will be no issues when exchanging files between desktop Illustrator CS6 and the CC version, but how easy will it be to maintain this going forward as new features are released? Training firms will increasingly be faced with the issue of whether to use the CC or desktop version, as well. Life is about to become more complicated.
But on the other hand, while it may be irksome to feel left behind, the purchase of a desktop version never included the promise that you'd receive new functionality between versions—otherwise, there wouldn't be any reason to purchase new versions. Adobe has committed to releasing free product updates for bug fixes and security patches for all current users, as well as supporting new hardware and operating systems, with CS5 through CS6 compatible with OSX Mountain Lion and Windows 8. While Scott Morris declined to comment when I asked him about Retina support, an Adobe blog post now indicates that this will be forthcoming "over the next few months" for CC and desktop versions of "key Adobe products," which strangely doesn't include InDesign. While the post doesn't specify that CC members will receive this update first, some media sources are making that claim, causing further confusion and disgruntlement for desktop users.
While not for everyone, the all-you-can-download subscription model should make sense for the majority of those with a need for multiple applications, since the current monthly rate is on a par with Internet access or a mobile phone. And upcoming enhancements like September's Dreamweaver update and the inclusion of Digital Publishing Suite Single Edition definitely add value. But Adobe is going to have to do more to make a clear distinction between what it means to be a Creative Cloud and a desktop customer. What would be welcome in this regard would be a central information source for both, to be able to keep track of what's new and separate rumor from reality.
Adobe has indicated that there were 90,000 paid subscriptions to the service as of May 30, with 5,000 new members per month, so by now there should be just over 100,000: respectable but not overwhelming. Will Creative Cloud be a hit? It's too soon to say but I'll be reporting on its progress regularly in future Creative Cloud Chronicles. Feel free to add your perspective in the comments area.
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